“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” -Gautama Buddha-
In this generation, people are obsessed over their own image and how others perceive them. People are constantly comparing themselves to the declared “societal norms”. These images are found on magazine covers, television commercials, and social media sites and they are often hard to ignore. Instead of aspiring to lose fifty pounds, or to stop eating gluten (for these goals are usually only temporary) I challenge you to a more meaningful resolution: learn to accept yourself for who you truly are.
“It isn’t hard to love ourselves, or anyone else, when things are going well,” Washington, DC-based licensed psychologist Alicia Clark states. This is very true, it isn’t hard to admire yourself on a good hair day, or after completing a challenging workout at the gym. “What’s a much taller order is to love ourselves when things aren’t going well, and when we need love most.” In order to love yourself unconditionally, you must learn to accept yourself on both your good days and your bad days.
There’s no denying that total self-acceptance and unconditional self-love are important, but let’s face it: it’s a hard practice. Here are seven practical ways to encourage a long-lasting positive relationship with yourself
1. Cut down to life’s basics
When a person is in distress, the first areas to be affected are nutrition, the amount of sleep, and exercise. It’s important to remember to take the time to care for yourself. If you can be mindful of your self-care when everything is going well, then you can continue the pattern when times get tough.
iMessage, Instagram, and twitter can wait. Our technology has become a routine way of filling up our moments of stillness, but this constant connection ceaselessly stimulates our brains and causes fatigue. Instead of staring at a bright white screen, try filling your free time with something meaningful.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. This is why you feel so exhausted from oversleeping, or sitting around all day. By allowing your body to get some exercise, you inspire more energy, strength and the rush of endorphins which are very good for your body. Sitting down all day can make you feel sluggish and tired. Even if you do not have time to get a hardcore workout, treat yourself to a walk on the trails or some simple yoga stretches. Your body will thank you.
4. Learn to be alone
This may sound counterproductive at first, however learning to love yourself means that you should be able to accept and enjoy time alone. In your time alone you should focus on who you are and who you want to be. To stimulate this, take a hot bath, or read a new book. Yoga and meditation also prove to be a great way to connect with your inner self.
5. Stop the negative talk
In a scene from the infamous movie Mean Girls, “The Plastics” all stand around a mirror and point out everything that they dislike about themselves. This kind of talk is detrimental to our body images. Instead of focusing on the negatives, focus on what you love about yourself. This might sound silly, however staring into the mirror every day and complimenting yourself, can be a big confidence booster.
6. Forgive yourself
Eating too much Chinese takeout is not something to hate yourself for. When feeling worn-out, it is very convenient to reach to carbs, sugar, and fat for comfort. While these rich foods may cheer us up momentarily, the guilt can leave us feeling emotionally and physically drained. If you find yourself eating nutrient-deprived foods, switch it up with nourishing foods that are close to their natural forms.
In life, you need to acknowledge that there will be circumstances that arise unexpectedly, and they may or may not be under your control. “Accept the fact that there are inevitable experiences that compromise your ability to love yourself, but difficulties don’t necessarily persist, and there is always a way to re-establish equilibrium,” advises New York City-based psychologist Brenda Bauer, Psy.D.
Remember learning to love yourself does not mean that you should stop improving. Life is always about improvement and finding balance. There is no better time to begin than now.